Saturday, March 22, 2014
Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Thundarr the Barbarian: "Battle of the Barbarians" (December 20, 1980)
In the ruins of ancient Chinatown, Thundarr, Ookla and Ariel attempt to stop a wizard and his powerful robots. When they succeed in protecting the human village nearby, the Wizard Kuglai swears his revenge.
He hires another barbarian, Zogar, to eliminate Thundarr.
Now, it’s barbarian against barbarian…
“Battle of the Barbarians” pits Thundarr against his most dedicated and dangerous opponent yet: Zogar the Barbarian!
The two men become bitter enemies locked in combat, and the episode works largely on the basis that it is cool to see Thundarr go up against one of his own.
Yet the challenge does seem to unhinge our hero a bit. Thundarr does a lot of leaping before looking in this episode. “I have a score to settle with Zogar!” he bellows madly.
It seems like there might have been an opportunity on the writer’s part to discuss obsession, or the idea of not letting someone else’s actions dictate your own, but instead “Battle of the Barbarians” is all action all the time.
Besides the conceit of an evil barbarian, this episode is pretty much the exact same fare we have seen in preceding episodes.
The setting is a 20th century, pre-holocaust landmark (here Chinatown) in ruins.
And the conflict involves Thundarr saving a human village from plunderers or other villains. In this case Thundarr actually seems to sniff out trouble.
“The sounds of destruction…and humans in danger!”
Single-minded and lacking much in terms of story depth, “Battle of the Barbarians” gets by mostly on its break-neck pacing. It’s a thrill-a-minute every minute, and I suspect that just what kids were looking for on a Saturday morning in 1980 while gulping their Froot-Loops.
Next Week: Thundarr meets the Playground of Death in: “Den of the Sleeping Demon.”
Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: Land of the Lost (1991 - 1992): "Make My Day" (November 14, 1992)
In “Make My Day,” Kevin goes around with a water pistol shooting Tasha and Stink.
Meanwhile, Tasha is teething, and chewing up Mr. Porter’s shoes in hopes of diminishing the pain.
After Kevin is attacked by the Sleestaks, he learns that Stink has discovered an ancient but highly-advanced gun in nearby ruins. It’s no ordinary gun, either, but a “light gun.”
Dressing up in a camouflage head-band and sun-glasses, Kevin decides to confront the Sleestak with the highly-advanced weapon.
But Shung wants the weapon for himself…
With only a handful of episodes remaining in its run, the remake of Land of the Lost (1991 – 1992) begins its final descent from mediocrity into downright rottenness. Although this episode is still better than the segment I’ll feature next week (“Cheers”), it is almost uniformly dreadful.
Here, Kevin finds a highly advanced Sleestak hand-gun that even the Sleestaks don’t recognize as being representative of their technology. They act like they’ve never seen it, even though Kevin observes the gun has Sleestak writing on it.
Then -- angry because the Sleestak are stronger than he is -- Kevin suits up for battle with the lizard people, and shoots the ground around them…making them dance.
At this juncture, Stink notes that “Sleestak have no rhythm,” a low-point for the Paku character.
Kevin has had so many low-points in the series, but “Make My Day” provides him with several more. He spends the episode quoting dirty Harry (“Go ahead Sleestaks, make my day…”) and comes across as borderline psychotic as he notes that he “owns the jungle.”
Porter is creepy as all get-out in this episode and all I can say is…we need to talk about Kevin…he needs an intervention (as “Cheers” also makes plain).
But here’s the really disturbing thing about this episode: “Make My Day” seeks to wring comedy out of its pretty frightening premise -- that a teenager finds and starts using a discarded gun.
Sadly, this premise doesn’t even work in terms of series continuity. Where does Kevin get khakis, sun-glasses, head-bands and the like?
And where does he find enough of that gear to outfit Stink as well?
Furthermore, why don’t the Sleestaks recognize their own technology? And where did these ruins come from? We’ve never seen them before in the series, but nobody comments about them in the body of the episode.
Next week: scraping the bottom of the Land of the Lost barrel with “Cheers.”
Friday, March 21, 2014
After dispatching a deadly assassin in For Your Eyes Only (1981) James Bond (Roger Moore) makes a joke.
He quips that the killer “had no head for heights.”
In a funny kind of way, the same observation could be made of this follow-up to Moonraker (1979).
It has no head -- or appetite -- for heights, either.
Instead, For Your Eyes Only is a dedicated re-grounding of the James Bond mythos and one that deliberately dials down the silly humor of the previous entry. Instead of focusing on space age jokes, this Bond film obsesses on matters of earthbound import such as revenge.
Virtually every aspect of this 1981 Bond entry suggests a back-to-basics approach in terms of the 007 character, his world, and the style of storytelling, even.
For example, For Your Eyes Only opens with a scene reminding viewers of Bond’s deepest, most grievous loss, the death of his wife Tracy. After that painful memory, the film then proceeds through a gadget-less but fast-paced adventure in which Bond must depend not on technological trickery, but rather his own instincts and skills if he hopes to survive.
Likewise, the film’s central car chase involves, approximately, the world’s least romantic-looking car.
As these and other facets of the film make abundantly plain, the intent in For Your Eyes Only was clearly not to make another jokey roller-coaster ride with flourishes of fantasy and outrageous humor, but a legitimate thriller instead, one with moments of significant suspense and high intrigue.
The filmmakers succeeded admirably and more than that, found a useful idea on which they could hang their tale. The central leitmotif of For Your Eyes Only, as mentioned above, is revenge.
Is revenge right?
Is it useful?
It is it inevitable, given human nature, and human loss?
From the film’s pre-title sequence (featuring an unnamed but recognizable Blofeld…) and its Greek heroine’s quest to avenge patricide, to the violent rivalry between Kristatos and Columbo, For Your Eyes Only explores the concept of revenge fully, if not always deeply.
As Bond himself notes in the film’s final moments, revenge is “not the answer” to anything.
Beautifully shot, and remarkably suspenseful in a few notable places, For Your Eyes Only remains Roger Moore’s best turn as the iconic secret agent.
“The Chinese have a saying: Before setting out on revenge, dig two graves.”
The British spy ship St. Georges is struck by a mine at sea, and goes down before the officers can self-destruct its most vital system, the ATAC (Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator), which has the capability to transmit orders to England’s fleet of Polaris submarines.
When the Soviet Union’s General Gogol (Walter Gotell) learns that he could get his hands on the valuable device, he contacts an agent in Greece to acquire it for him.
Meanwhile, James Bond, Agent 007 (Moore) is also tasked with obtaining the ATAC.
Bond’s first step in that hunt is to follow a hired gun named Gonzalez (Stefan Kalipha), the man is responsible for murdering a British operative, Havelock, and his wife, in the waters near the St. Georges’ last known position.
Also determined to find -- and kill -- Gonzalez is Havelock’s lovely daughter, Melina (Carole Bouquet).
After Melina succeeds in her quest, Bond gets her to safety, and must follow his second lead instead: the man who paid Gonzalez for the Havelock hit: Emile Leopold Locque (Michael Gothard).
Bond travels to Italy in pursuit of Locque, and his contact there sets up a meeting with Arius Kristatos (Julian Glover), a Greek businessman and informant who has worked before for England.
Kristatos informs Bond that Locque is employed by a criminal boss known as “The Dove,” or Columbo (Topol).
When Bond meets “The Dove” for himself, however, he learns that Kristatos has framed Columbo, and that Kristatos is a Soviet agent…the very man attempting to acquire the ATAC.
Racing against the clock, Bond and Melina retrieve the ATAC from the sunken St Georges, but Kristatos is aware of their location, and prepares to take possession of it for himself…
“That’s Détente. You don’t have it. I don’t have it.”
For Your Eyes Only is a back-to-basics Bond film, and a wonderful one at that.
The film opens with sadness…and franchise history.
We see Bond visiting the grave of his dead wife, and her tombstone is marked with the legend “We have all the time in the world.”
This scene represents a remarkable bit of continuity with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), which is widely considered the biggest failure of the franchise. It was so disliked a film for so long, in fact, that Tracy wasn’t even mentioned by name in the follow-up Bond film, Diamonds are Forever (1971).
Bond was going after Blofeld with a vengeance in that film’s pre-title sequence, but there was not one word spoken about Bond’s marriage, his wife, or Tracy Draco.
Yet For Your Eyes Only remembers both Bond’s marriage, and the tragedy that followed the wedding. The first shots of the film are of a graveyard, and of Bond bringing flowers solemnly to Tracy’s grave.
He doesn’t say anything -- his thoughts are private -- but there is heaviness about Moore’s Bond here.
But the significant point is that this is not Plastic Man.
This is not Luke Skywalker, either.
This is a man that has known love and tragedy in his life. Bond is a person like any other person, and one not immune to the dangers or vicissitudes of life. That’s a key aspect of the literary Bond character, and one that needed to be projected immediately in For Your Eyes Only if there was to be a course correction from the outlandish (though undeniably entertaining…) Moonraker.
After the opening scene’s acknowledgment of Bond’s humanity and history, For Your Eyes Only goes to great lengths to keep the secret agent away from his trademark gadgetry. In fact, the gadgets in the film are deployed not as aids to Bond…but literally as jokes.
The first such joke involves Bond’s Lotus Esprit. He parks the stylish car, locks the door, and activates a “burglar protection system.”
When bad guys attempt to break the unoccupied car’s windows, the Lotus explodes into a million pieces.
Some burglar protection system! I think it’s called a “self-destruct device,” actually.
But the up-shot of the car’s destruction is that Bond cannot rely on his fancy ride to get him out of trouble.
He will not have the benefit here of ejector seats, missile-launchers, or any other high-tech trickery. He’s going to have to go it alone, with only his wits and instincts as co-pilots…
…in a Citroen 2CV, the pokiest, most light-weight car you can imagine.
Yet -- in what could be the motto for For Your Eyes Only -- Bond (and the filmmakers) turn this poky, light-weight, bright yellow car into a strength instead of a weakness. In the exciting car chase that involves the Citroen, Bond finds that it is more maneuverable than his opponents’ big, heavy vehicles, and uses that quality to steal a win.
This car chase sequence remains amazing, not only because it follows a joke about Bond’s gadgetry, but because it re-establishes viscerally Bond’s unparalleled skill as a driver. He’s got nothing else to fall back on here, and so he drives back-wards, downhill, and even weaves and dodges his way to success.
As one would expect of a Bond film, the stunts in this sequence are spectacular, but it’s a nice de-glamorization of the Bond universe to see 007 driving not a very expensive sports car, but a clunker instead.
The only other gadget in the film is Q’s Identigraph, a device which allows Bond to identify Locque, using the data files of Interpol, etc.
At one point, Q (Desmond Llewlyn) turns Locque’s nose into what Bond calls “a banana,” and again, the idea transmitted is simply that technology is fallible, and therefore not always useful. The skill of the user is the thing that matters, not the device itself.
The film’s McGuffin, the ATAC (heir to the Lektor of From Russia with Love ) transmits the same notion. The officers aboard the St. Georges are not able to destroy the device, and so all of England -- and the West itself -- is imperiled by the existence of a small, unassuming typewriter-like device.
If the gadgets are mightily de-romanticized in For Your Eyes Only, so are the schemes of the Bond villain, Kristatos in this case.
As you may recall, Drax (Michael Lonsdale) in Moonraker sought to wipe out the human race from his space station in Earth orbit, and then re-seed the Earth with his hand-picked super-people.
By contrast, Kristatos merely attempts to to steal the ATAC and make some money off the theft.
Kristatos is also a sadist -- as his act of keel-hauling proves dramatically -- but he’s a more realistic, more nuanced figure than either Stromberg or Drax were.
In fact, Kristatos is kind of petty, even, sending Bond to kill his rival, Columbo so he doesn’t have to expend the energy himself.
In terms of action, For Your Eyes Only is exhilarating, in part because director Glen often adopts the first-person point-of-view in the chase sequences, particularly in the ski-chase and inside the bob-sled track.
This P.O.V. angle literally lands us in the action, and though the feelings of speed and acceleration are incredible, so is the feeling of reality. This is not something “faked” like the outer space adventure of Moonraker, for example.
Moore’s Bond also seems more world-weary and less fresh-faced in this entry. I know that many fans believe that Moore was too old, at this juncture, to play the role effectively, but I like Moore’s Bond with a little age on his face, in For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy (1983), specifically.
He’s still an attractive, able-bodied man, but with age comes wisdom, and also the appearance of a more knowing, perhaps more fatigued demeanor. I think Moore’s appearance works well in conjunction with the character’s story in For Your Eyes Only. Bond stopped being “dashing” and “fresh-faced” a long time ago. He’s seen much mileage since those days.
As I wrote above, For Your Eyes Only revolves largely around revenge.
The opening scene sees Bond execute his final, fatal revenge upon Blofeld, the man who killed his wife. Bond offs this dastardly opponent with appropriate glee, given what Blofeld cost him.
But then, after exorcising his own vengeance, Bond counsels Melina not to further pursue her own. She has already killed the man directly responsible for her parents’ death, and Bond doesn’t want to see her make violence and revenge a way of life.
This advice is intriguing. Bond wants to spare Melina his own journey, either because he has recognized this impulse for revenge in himself, or because he has beaten that impulse within himself. The movie doesn’t specify which happens to be the case, but it’s enough that Bond notes the Chinese proverb about seeking revenge, and digging two graves.
Melina, however, doesn’t want to hear Bond’s words. She compares herself explicitly to Electra, the daughter of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra. When her father was killed by Aegisthus, Elektra plotted revenge with her brother, Orestes, and that revenge consisted of murder.
Revenge also comes into the picture with Kristatos and Columbo: rivals who hate one another, and will do anything to destroy one another. Every slight, every attack, is countered so that their conflict continues endlessly. This is the very example Bond fears for Melina: a cycle in which she can’t let go of her hatred, or the need for violence. A cycle which kills innocents, like the Countess, Lisl.
Bond’s understanding, finally, about revenge seems to involve the answer he gives Gogol, after destroying the ATAC: “Détente.”
At some point, enemies -- like the East and West in the Cold War -- must put aside slights, hurts and rivalries, and attempt to move forward. If that doesn’t happen, the two-sides will be locked forever -- like Kristatos and Columbo -- in an undying rivalry of violence and bloodshed.
Screening For Your Eyes Only again this week, I was struck by how tense and suspenseful the film remains. I noted this suspense in three key scenes: at the ski tower, were Bond is bullied and pushed into a jump, underwater, in his battle with an enemy in a heavy diving suit, and finally during the ascent to Kristatos’ St. Cyrils mountaintop headquarters.
That final sequence, with Bond scaling a mountain, is nerve-wracking, in particular. There’s no music accompanying his climb, just the noise of the wind howling all around him. Similarly, when a bad guy attempts to knock James from his high perch, we hear the jangling sounds of the villain banging the butt of his gun into the metal hooks which keep Bond tethered.
There’s also the sound, here, of ropes stretching and straining as they struggle to hold Bond’s weight.
Bill Conti’s musical score does not kick in until Bond dispatches the henchman, and gives the order for Melina and Columbo to proceed. When the score commences, it’s a variation of the famous 007 theme, and you’ll sigh in relief at the comfort (and triumph…) that the familiar tune provides after such sustained, carefully-generated anxiety.
In For Your Eyes Only, the push-button Bond of Moonraker is gone, and we get in his stead a man who feels pain, who remembers his history, and who uses his instincts -- not his toys -- to stay alive.
The result of all these efforts to re-ground Bond is a great entry in the canon, and the best Roger Moore 007 film of all.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
At Anorak: We Used to Be Friends: Five Reasons Why Veronica Mars (2014) is Much More Than "Fan Service."
My new article is up at Anorak. Titled "We Used to Be Friends: Why Veronica Mars (2014) is Much More Than "Fan Service," it concerns a mystery worthy of Veronica Mars herself.
Why are so many critics of the film using the term "fan service" in regards to it?
Is "fan service" actually code for...something else? And if so, what?
Here's a snippet.
"HERE’S a challenge for the intrepid researcher: Go to Google and search for five or so reviews of the Veronica Mars (2014) movie from the mainstream press that don’t include the following term: “fan service.”
For the uninitiated in such things, fan service is a descriptor widely understood to mean the act of “giving the fans exactly what they want,” and for some reason, it is being applied to Veronica Marson a remarkably consistent, nay universal basis.
Have all media writers just discovered this term at once?
If so, can we look forward to the idea of “fan service” also being applied as an adjective to upcoming major geek releases such as Godzilla, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Star Wars Episode VII?
Or, more insidiously, is the term “fan service” being applied regularly only to Veronica Marsbecause the film was funded the crowd-source way, by Kickstarter?
The real question here is this: does the fact that fans of the TV series (2004 – 2007) paid for the movie’s budget mean that Veronica Mar is less of a real — and therefore less worthy — of a film than any other?
It seems that in this case, “fan service” is actually a code term utilized to diminish or slight the Rob Thomas film and to transmit (through stealth means…) the notion that Veronica Mars is less legitimate a movie than one that, by contrast, a studio has paid hundreds millions of dollars to support.
You know, real movies like the The Lone Ranger (2013) or R.I.P.D.(2013)
Of course, this notion of Veronica Mars being somehow illegitimate is patently absurd. And the idea of Veronica Mars as drooling, empty-headed “fan service” can be negated simply by a close analysis of the film itself.
In that light, here are five reasons why that Veronica Mars is no mere “fan service” film.
In that light, here are five reasons why that Veronica Mars is no mere “fan service” film.
We Are What We Are (2013) is an intelligent, compelling, atmospheric, and likely controversial horror film.
Director Jim Mickle -- who made the extraordinary Stake Land (2010) -- suffuses his latest film with an elegiac feel, and the visuals are all muted and subdued.
In terms of its color canvas, We Are What We Are appears faded or washed out, and that’s an appropriate look given that the film concerns a landscape constantly besieged by flooding. Every image looks like it is in danger of being washed away, and that’s a pretty good metaphor for human life itself.
In terms of theme, We Are What We Are serves, primarily, as an indictment of religion. On those grounds it may offend some viewers.
Specifically, the movie gazes at the way that religious belief can be utilized to justify almost any behavior, and also make draconian demands on its practitioners that, in this day and age, are not strictly necessary.
The central family in We Are What We Are, in particular, celebrates a “tradition” called Lamb’s Day that has been practiced, without deviation, without thought, and without question since 1741.
Once upon a time -- and under a very specific set of circumstances -- the practicing of this tradition made sense, and was even necessary for survival.
In the present, however, the (brutal and monstrous…) practice of Lamb’s Day reveals the inertia and lassitude that dogmatic belief systems often rely upon.
In other words, acts are undertaken by adherents simply because they have always been undertaken, not because they are morally right, spiritually valuable, or even functional.
Tradition, then, substitutes for individual morality and responsibility in a very negative fashion.
At the same time that We Are What We Are exposes some aspects of religious belief as bankrupt, it serves simultaneously as a weird coming-of-age story.
Responsibility for Lamb’s Day preparations falls on a teenage girl, Rose (Julie Garner) who wants nothing to do with it, but feels pressure to conform to established practices.
Notably, the patriarch of the family does not sully his hands with this particular tradition, and so the film also involves (and derides) the patriarchal aspects of some religious practice. At the end of the film, the father finally evidences some sense of his own corruption, noting that Rose was once a “good girl” and that “it was me that made her bad.”
If you parse that too-little-too-late statement a bit, what the patriarch, Mr. Parker expresses, primarily, is his vanity; his arrogant belief that he knew what God wanted and that – miraculously -- God’s wants dovetailed precisely with his own.
A slow-build, slow-burn kind of horror film, but one that is punctuated by a gruesome and visceral pay-off, We Are What We Are makes its intellectual arguments with real verve and total commitment.
Even if you disagree with this horror film’s conclusions about elements of religion and religious tradition, you can admire We Are What We Are for its coherence, consistency, and finally, the film’s humanity.
“It’s the first day of abstinence.”
In a small rural town where flooding is an on-going concern, the Parker family struggles to make its way in the world.
On a routine trip to the general store, however, the matriarch of the family, Alyce (Rush) dies unexpectedly, and her two daughters, Iris (Ambyr Childers) and Rose (Julia Garner) are asked by the local coroner, Doc Barrow (Michael Parks) to identify her corpse. They do so, and begin a period of mourning.
Iris and Rose’s father, Frank (Bill Sage), meanwhile, is suffering from tremors of unknown origin, and demands that -- in her mother’s absence -- Rose accept responsibility for the Parker tradition of “Lamb’s Day.”
This feast is celebrated once every year, after a spell of fasting (or what the family calls “abstinence.”)
At the same time, a high-school girl, Valerie Kimball, disappears without a trace.
Back at the Parker house, Rose is reluctant to adopt her mother’s holiday chore, as it involves a “monster” in the basement, but she undertakes her task with seriousness and purpose, even though she knows it is wrong. Rose reads from the Parker family’s diary -- going back to 1741 -- to gather her strength.
Soon, Doc Barrow discovers bones near a river that crosses Parker’s property. He suspects they are human bones, and their discovery re-awakens his own sense of loss.
Some time ago, Barrow’s daughter also disappeared without a trace.
Barrow begins to believe that his child’s disappearance has something to do with the Parkers, who seem very strange and unfriendly.
Doc Barrow attempts to confirm his suspicion, but finds the Parkers celebrating their Lambs Day meal…
“God chose us to be this way.”
As you’ve probably figured out if you’ve read this far, Lamb’s Day in We Are What We involves cannibalism, and more.
This holiday involves the process of killing, skinning, and then preparing for the consumption of living human beings. We learn the origin of the Parkers’ cannibalism from the family journal.
Back in 1741, the Parkers were settlers in wild, untamed territory when they ran out of food. The days and weeks went by, and desperation increased exponentially. Even as the family starved, the patriarch knew that his children had not yet seen “the whole of nature’s cruelty.” He couldn’t let them die.
As a last resort, the father and one another man went on a trip in search of supplies. The father returned to the family sometime later with a surplus of food…but without his traveling companion.
You can guess the rest.
The patriarch had killed his fellow-traveler for the “fresh meat.” But perhaps more importantly, the patriarch excused his own murderous behavior, believing that “all is forgiven in the eyes of the Lord,” and that he and his family had been chosen by God “to be this way.”
In other words, the Parker Patriarch cloaked his moral trespass in holy robes, and turned that very trespass into the basis of a new form of worship or religion.
The violent act of murder was repeated (so as to canonize it, essentially and to spread the culpability for it to others as well…), and a liturgy was written to make murder and cannibalism sacrosanct.
“It is with love that I do this. God’s will be done.”
Rinse and repeat. It makes the stabbing go over easier…
Lamb’s Day, however, transforms the Parkers into predators. They seek prey whom they can eat, and don’t treat that prey as fully human, just as in some religions, the unfaithful are considered less important, less righteous, and even less human.
The outsiders don’t “have” the true faith, and therefore will not be saved in the afterlife.
We see precisely the outcome of that kind of thinking in one stunning montage in We Are What We Are.
Specifically, Rose prepares a girl’s corpse for consumption. She cleans the body so it will be suitable as food. The images of her giving this corpse a bath, however, are inter-cut with images of solitary Doc Barrow at home, bathing his dog.
What’s missing from this picture?
The comfort of his family, the comfort his (dead) daughter might provide.
Why is it acceptable (and indeed righteous) that the Parkers took Barrow’s family away from him, and left him to this damnation of not-knowing her fate. The cross-cutting montage reveals that for every Lamb’s Day valediction, there is also a human victim, and a victim’s family.
In the case of the Parkers’ religion is the thing that permits them to commit murder and still believe themselves righteous, and God’s chosen. To the very end, Mr. Parker insists this is so. He would rather die with his tradition intact than live life without it. “We have kept our tradition and its purity,” he notes – whitewashing generations of murder – “and seek our reward in Heaven.”
One can make all kinds of rationalizations or arguments about what occurred in 1741. If I had been there, faced with the same situation, I might have done the same thing to save my wife and son. But today, such a crime is archaic and unnecessary, and the practice of it is not just barbaric, but self-indulgent. It is done by the Parkers because a “legend” has grown up suggesting that it is right to do it.
And it is often easier to believe a legend than to determine your own new truth.
We Are What We Are’s conclusion offers both a victory and a loss for Mr. Parker. He teaches his girls too well, ironically, about the demands of his religion, and let’s just state that their application of Lambs Day protocol is…vigorously righteous.
The film also says much about sex roles in religion. Mr. Parker and his ancestors came up with the whole Lambs Day practice, but then they immediately handed it off to their women to execute the specifics (and the victims). It is the women who kill, the women who clean, and the women who cook. The men keep their hands clean.
“Your mom would be proud,” Mr. Parker tells Rose, suggesting to his daughter that she has fulfilled her destiny and stepped into her mother’s shoes. If he showers her with enough paternal praise, she will believe that this is what she is supposed to do, that this is who she is supposed to be.
But, of course, what Mr. Parker has actually done is introduced his own child to murder for no good reason.
The flooding in the film -- which truly reaches Biblical proportions -- is an interesting thing. Given the film’s religious context, it might be interpreted as God’s punishment. The disease that the Parkers’ suffer from, though scientific in basis, might also be interpreted as a “punishment,” from a certain perspective, for their immorality.
But we ought to be careful about going that far.
We Are What We Are makes no direct implication of God’s anger, perhaps because the movie understands that if we take that leap, we are every bit as bad as Mr. Parker is. We would be assuming that God follows our opinion and idea of morality, and not his or her own. We would be substituting our wisdom for God’s, and that is the very thing that led the Parkers to commit murder and become cannibals.
One thing is for certain: this film gives the audience a lot to think about, even if the final moments might justify as, literally, overkill.
Some aspects of We Are What We Are also feel a bit warmed-over, it is true. The prion disease and the linkages it creates, forensically-speaking, come right out of a classic episode X-Files episode called “Our Town.”
But the performances are nonetheless very good, and the porcelain, delicate Julie Garner is downright haunting.
Even the title, “We Are What We Are” expresses perfectly the film’s arguments about the inertia of some religious beliefs, and the intellectual laziness of some believers.
It doesn’t matter if what you believe is wrong, because you are what you are, and you’re just going to continue believing it. No matter what.
But down that path of mindless, rote repetition and dogmatic, unthinking tradition lies madness, says We Are What We Are, not salvation.